International fixtures under corona circumstances: DFB president Fritz Keller, general secretary Dr. Friedrich Curtius, DFB director Oliver Bierhoff and Prof. Dr. Tim Meyer, the national team’s sports physician, spoke to DFB.de about the association’s careful steps towards normality.
… the pandemic situation in football: On the whole, we’re in quite a good position, which has been adjusted according to the situation. I was at the Champions League final in Lisbon, which was relatively unproblematic. We’ve received a lot of praise internationally for how we conducted the Europa League finals in North Rhine Westphalia. I also found out that the DFB and German football as a whole have taken on a leadership role, on the basis of the hygiene protocol. We would like to continue playing this role. The amateur league finals were carried out relatively smoothly, but it made us realise how painful it is to play without spectators – the amateur clubs really suffer as a result of this, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
… International fixtures behind closed doors: The situation is different from state to state here in Germany, which doesn’t make things any easier. In Saxony, for example, up to 1000 fans are allowed to attend, in Baden-Württemberg just 500 and in Frankfurt on Sunday it was only 250. We have the utmost understanding for this – everyone has to react differently. Our approach has been soft, we’ve never demanded anything, we’ve only presented possible solutions and we want to carry on doing so. Our initial plan was actually to allow 500 spectators to attend the Spain match in Stuttgart. We would have invited people of certain, systematically relevant occupations and forgone sales to paying spectators. UEFA decided, however, not to allow any spectators into European international games. I do understand this decision, also to prevent larger scale fan travel between countries. Now we’ve found out that UEFA are allowing 30 percent capacity for the Supercup final between Bayern and Sevilla. I’m curious to see how that goes. We need to work on systems that will allow fans back into the grounds. Health is of top priority.
… the international fixtures against Spain and Switzerland: Spain will be our first international fixture for ten months – that’s the longest break from international football since the second world war, which says a lot. The DFB and its national team took a back seat, as did UEFA and their international competitions, in order to give the leagues priority. Now it’s our turn, otherwise we’d end up in a difficult situation financially.
… the current national team squad: Joachim Löw has been brave and proactive with his selection in not calling the Bayern players among other players. We want a large spectrum of players by the time the EUROS comes around. And the players’ health and wellbeing is of utmost importance.
… DFB’s place during the corona pandemic: The outbreak of corona posed unbelievable challenges to us as a society and a country, which affected the DFB as well. From the very start, we have been concentrating on returning to a certain degree of normality. We have played all the games from the top three leagues and the Women’s Bundesliga. We’ve also developed guidelines for the amateur leagues. We’ve been pioneering, which allowed us to be able to carry out the Europa League finals in North Rhine Westphalia. The crisis continues, however, the football calendar will still be different from usual, provisionally behind closed doors as well. It is clear that the pandemic will continue to ask questions of us.
… the significance of international fixtures: International fixtures are life insurance for us at DFB. I have every faith that the game against Spain will be exceptional from a sporting perspective. These international fixtures will allow the DFB to get through this crisis. There’s a long way to go yet, but as an association we have tackled the crisis well and responsibly.
… the new hygiene protocol: The hygiene protocol has nothing to do with spectators. It’s a concept designed to protect the worker in accordance with the Ministry of Labour. It’s different from the protocol for the remainder of the 2019/20 season. Earlier this year there was real urgency; maximum control was needed, security was of top priority. Now we’ve learned and made adjustments – we can now pass on responsibility to the clubs. The guidelines don’t need to be as strict in every department any more. The most notable difference is that we’ve introduced three different levels of pandemic. The regulations will now be adjusted according to the number of infected people per 100,000 inhabitants. There’s a high level, a medium level, and the lowest level.
… impact on non-league football: The protocol was drawn up for professional football. Non-league and amateur footballers would be more likely to see a risk in the dressing rooms and around the pitch perimeter. We have seen good signs of it not being so dramatic on the pitch. We’ll try to process this, but it will take time to get results.
…. the corona crisis: All of us, the whole of German football, have a difficult season ahead of us, but I am grateful for having so many experts to fall back on. We have remained in close contact with UEFA and knew what to expect. We have a responsibility, not just for the men’s national team, but for the women’s team and the youth teams as well.
We need to deal with the situation responsibly and set the same criteria. We will carry out tests when the players arrive. We have already cancelled youth internationals, but we are completing training courses and friendlies with teams close to our border. The important thing was for us to remain in close contact with the clubs at all levels.
… managing the burden: The burden on the players will be very high, which is why we picked out the topic of ‘managing the burden’, in order to discuss in detail how we should deal with the situation. That’s really important. I am pleased that we’ve got a head coach who thinks long-term like Jogi. Our aim is to be successful at the EUROS, so I am delighted that we’re finally getting back together.
… the protocol during the international break: We, as a team, will live in a sort of bubble. The players will congregate on Monday afternoon, the coaches and staff on Sunday. Tests will be carried out beforehand, to ensure that everyone is in good health. We will stay in the hotel the whole time and carry out regular tests.